The Best Swimming Holes in Maine’s White Mountains

The perfect place to cool off after a mountain hike — or just while away a summer afternoon.

Rattlesnake Pool. Photo by Tory Welton.
By Adrienne Perron
From our August 2022 issue

Tucked away along the mountain trails of the Whites, canopy-covered ponds and plunge pools are inviting on a hot summer’s day. But etiquette and trail savvy are key: Always use caution and common sense in any Maine backcountry swimming spot. Don’t crowd out other users — come back later if the water’s looking full. Don’t stack rocks. Bring your suit. And always, always pack out everything you bring in.

Emerald Pool

This little lagoon is breathtaking — both figuratively, for its jade-green color, and literally, on account of the chilling, mountain-fed waters of Charles Brook. It’s large enough for just a handful of swimmers, but it’s nice and deep (12 feet, at its deepest) so visitors can take turns jumping in from the surrounding rocks (or wading in from a small, rocky beach). And yeah, it’s technically one mile on the wrong side of the New Hampshire border, but you have to go through Maine to get there, so we say it’s ours.

From the Baldface Circle trailhead (on Rte. 113, 16 miles north of Fryeburg), hike three-quarters of a mile to reach the short spur trail to the pool.

At Rattlesnake Pool. Photo by Tory Welton.

Rattlesnake Pool

In a hemlock glade on the lower reaches of Blueberry Mountain, this small, emerald-tinted pool accommodates a few swimmers at a time, with exposed rocks on the side to jump from or lounge on. It’s fed by a pretty horsetail waterfall, and the creek carries on downstream via the equally lovely Rattlesnake Flume, tumbling another 10 feet into a narrow gorge.

From the Stone House gate at the end of Shell Pond Rd. (off Rte. 113, 18 miles north of Fryeburg), hike a mile along the Stone House Trail to reach the short spur trail to the pool.

Weston’s Beach

On a wide bend in the Saco River, this long stretch of golden sand is roomy enough that beachgoers have plenty of elbow room, even on busy summer days. The water’s shallow (though there’s a current), so it’s popular with families, as well as with paddlers and tubers putting in and taking out. Check out the ruins of an old stone structure on the small island downstream.

From Fryeburg’s Main St., follow River St. (Rte. 113) a half mile across the river to the parking lot, on the right.

Falls along Bickford Creek, off the Blueberry Ridge Trail. Photo by Tory Welton.

Middle Bickford Slide

This one takes commitment and care, as it involves off-trail hiking along a semi-steep slope — not for kiddos or the sandal-clad. But if you’re comfortable with a little bushwhacking, the pool at the base of this tumbling 40-foot falls is wide and shallow (no jumping) and sparsely visited. Find it along the Bickford Slides Loop Trail, a mile-long, occasionally steep spur along Bickford Creek, between Sugarloaf and Blueberry mountains. The “slides” are a series of three picturesque cascades. Don’t try swimming at the lower one, the largest, but scramble with care from the middle overlook for a classic wilderness soak.

From the Bickford Brook trailhead, at the Brickett Place (off Rte. 113, 19 miles north of Fryeburg), hike just over a half-mile along the Bickford Brook Trail to the junction with the Blueberry Ridge Trail. Follow the Blueberry Ridge Trail a few hundred feet, over the brook, then turn upstream (left) on the Bickford Slides Loop Trail. The Middle Slide overlook is a third of a mile upstream.

Swimming in the Mahoosucs

Neighbor to the national forest, the Mahoosuc Range is a can’t-miss appendage to Maine’s stretch of the Whites.

Frenchman’s Hole, off Sunday River Road, 7 miles off Route 2, swimmers leap from a small cliff into a deep pool carved by a 10-foot falls on a Sunday River tributary. At Step Falls Preserve, slick granite serves as slides into swimmable pockets of boulder-strewn Wight Brook. It’s on Route 26, a half mile east of the state-park boundary — and four miles west of Puzzle Mountain Bakery, Maine’s best honor-system roadside pie stand and a classic calorie cache for Mahoosuc adventurers.

Read more about Maine’s 50,000 acres of the White Mountain National Forest.